On Monday, April 6, a caravan of vehicles filled with the administration, faculty, and staff of The Sherman School wound a circuitous route through Sherman to wave at their students who stood ready at the roadside to return the gesture. In a surreal period for all, the parade offered a chance to safely connect with students in person, on top of the many distance learning efforts the school has recently begun.
Superintendent Jeff Melendez says of the switch to distance learning following their closure on March 13, that “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, but we are trying to ensure that we try to maintain normalcy.” The faculty at The Sherman School has remained agile and is developing curriculum to stay the courses that they were previously on, while acknowledging that there would be modification and technological hurdles along the way. “One of the greatest challenges has definitely been not being able to see our students each day, and for them, the additional lack of social interaction with their peers, which is such a huge part of school and is really hard to replicate virtually,” said Assistant Principal, Brian Kalkreuth, “That said, it has been a lot of fun to learn about new technologies, and to be part of such a wonderful team of dedicated teachers who are bravely experimenting with these new resources to provide meaningful learning opportunities for our students during this unprecedented time.”
The parade offered a positive opportunity for school staff to interact with students in a distanced way and it succeeded in lifting spirits all around. “It was awesome,” said Kalkreuth, of the dozens of vehicles on route through the town. Sheila Reidy, Physical Education teacher, was the impetus for the parade planning. “I saw some clips on TV from other communities and thought, what a great idea!… I thought everyone needs a little pep rally! I’ve worked at the school for 28 years and from day one, the Sherman community has always been a supportive, loving family.”
4th grade teachers Bernadette Linero and Shannon Oricchio both expressed gratitude, writing of the parade, “It was a beautiful sight to see our fellow colleagues banning together to bolster the spirits of our much-missed students. Families stood at the edges of their driveways or drove out to greet us on main roads from their cars. With signs, noise makers, or just cheering wildly with School Spirit, the Sherman Community made us feel loved (from a six-foot distance, of course). It made us proud to be part of the town of Sherman.”
Administrators are attempting to normalize the students’ educations as much as possible, “We have added student-led morning announcements via YouTube Live three days per week,” Melendez said, plus, “I have recorded myself reading children’s books which teachers can show their students via video.” They are also planning some virtual events to showcase their students’ musical talents. “We want to make sure our students enjoy as much socialization and connection as they can during this time of quarantine.”
Melendez explained that, to ready for distance learning, The Sherman School administrators first offered an electronic survey to assess the availability of access to technology. They then provided an iPad or Chromebook to every family who needed one before distance learning began in earnest on March 23rd. In addition, the administrators personally called each family on the phone during the week of March 30 through April 3 for an informal check in to ensure that they and their children were “healthy, offer encouragement, and determine if we could do anything to support their efforts in implementing the Digital Learning Plan,” Melendez said. He went on to say, “We received very positive feedback from families who appreciated these efforts and also gained a lot of important details regarding what was working or not working for children instructionally.”
Though they are appropriately distanced, and practicing distance learning, Melendez says that The Sherman School will continue in their aim to “reconnect students and teachers and continue to draw our community closer together.”
See more photos of the parade on page 7 in this week’s Town Tribune!
By Sarah Opdahl